This year at Cannes, the person who squirmed sitting next to Lars von Trier at his notorious “Melancholia” Cannes press conference, during which the Danish writer-director offended just about everybody by calling himself a Nazi, was his star, Kirsten Dunst. In the days to follow he apologized repeatedly for the “stupid, idiotic” comments that led to his banishment from the festival.
But he also had to repair the damage he had done to his relationship with Dunst. “It was probably harder on her than anyone else,” Von Trier told me the night he was going to meet her for a makeup dinner.
Putting balm on the wound was the closing night ceremony, when Dunst gratefully accepted the best actress Palme, thanking the festival for allowing “Melancholia” to stay in competition. Afterwards she said that she should not have been punished for von Trier’s “inappropriate” comments. Nor should she. “Melancholia” starts off with Dunst’s lavish castle wedding, destroyed by the beautiful bride’s plunge into depression, followed by how she and her family deal with a planet hurtling toward a possible collision with Earth. “Melancholia” might have had a shot at the Palme d’Or won by “The Tree of Life” had it not been overshadowed by von Trier’s misbehavior. (More details on the film and a sampling of reviews are here.)
By the time of our video interview below, Dunst, who had already weathered a Cannes controversy with Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” had clearly forgiven her director. She was sorry to have missed a celebratory party, and clearly has learned to measure her words carefully with the media. After all, she’s been working in high-profile films since 1994’s “Interview with the Vampire” at age 12. And she’s happy to carry the promo load on “Melancholia”–as Von Trier has refused to give any more interviews. “Maybe that’s not a bad thing,” she says, laughing.
Working with Von Trier, contrary to previous reports, was “not difficult,” she says. Both had experienced depression; he opened up to her and earned her trust, she sys: “I couldn’t feel so vulnerable if I didn’t feel taken care of by Lars.”
Dunst admits that she got off easy on this one, compared to what Charlotte Gainsbourg had to do on “Anti-Christ.” She worried about her parents seeing her magnificient nude display, but her father told her it was “artistic.” “Only Lars and Pedro Almodovar write these incredible, messy roles for women,” she says. Even the department heads on the film were women: “He needs nurturing.” She would happily work with Von trier again–along with Almodovar and Michael Haneke.
While she has been heading in an indie direction since leaving the “Spider-Man” franchise, “I’m not an indie intense person at all,” she insists. In fact, she’s now shooting a dark indie comedy with Isla Fisher, “Bachelorette,” based on rookie director Leslye Hedland’s play. “We’ve lightened it,” she says. In January Dunst starts another indie adapted from the stage, Adam Rapp’s bleak drama “Red Light Winter, ” which the NYT called “a frank, graphic story of erotic fixation and the havoc it can wreak on sensitive souls.” The movie will co-star Mark Ruffalo and Billy Crudup. Sounds intense and indie, if you ask me.